The Healing Power of Christ

Do not fearMark 5: 21-43

Just as it was when Jesus reached the shore of the Gentiles, it is the same when he returns to the shore of Jewish territory; someone in need of a miracle immediately falls at his feet. In the land of the Gerasenes it was a crazed demoniac, now it is Jairus, the leader of the local synagogue. One fell at Jesus’ feet and asked, “What have you to do with me Jesus?” The other begged Jesus to come. Such are the contrasting views concerning faith and Jesus’ power to heal whom he will.

The world is filled with powers that defy God, those that would claim faith in Jesus is really a sign of weakness. After all, it is human nature to attempt to take control of life and force an outcome. Non-believers and naysayers look toward any means other than Christ in order to have what they will. In such a world, good fortune and affliction are defined as karma or some other circumstantial power dictating fate. “What comes around goes around.” Within such a life there is no room for a loving compassionate God, only the false assurance that “It’s my life and I’m in control.” Yet, as we see with the Gerasene demoniac, Jesus has power to overcome and defeat powers no human can control. Jesus restores the man to wholeness and brings him to faith.

With Jairus we have a much different picture. Here is a man of status, one who has certain authority. He recognizes his limited human ability and is willing to yield to the power and authority of God. On the way, however, there is an interruption. Another person in need of a miracle reaches out to Jesus. She reaches out and she is healed. How often do we encounter such interruptions? How many times might we feel Jesus is otherwise preoccupied, neglecting our urgent need? News came to Jairus that his daughter had indeed died. Jairus’ faith gave way to despair, but with Jesus, hope is never lost. Jesus reassures him, “Do not fear, only believe.”

At Jairus’ home the powers that defy God once again gathered; the people laughed at Jesus when he claimed the girl was not dead. As it was with the Gerasenes, they didn’t recognize the power of Christ. A few moments later, they were amazed. With a simple touch of his hand, Jesus called the girl from death to life. The strength of her father’s faith was restored and Jesus is identified as the one who has power, even over death and the grave.

As we continue along our earthly journey, fear and faith seem to walk alongside. There are so many instances when fear takes hold, illness, loneliness, grief and loss. In all of these we reach out in faith to Christ for help, yet sometimes we experience what we perceive to be interruptions along the path to healing and wholeness. Jesus says. “Do not fear, only believe.” Even as we do not always understand the issues we face, we cannot forget that God is active in the lives of his people. Worldly powers may attempt to control our lives, but they are no match for the power of God’s love. In the end, it is Christ who calls us from death to life. By no other power are people able to be saved.

Facing Demons

chainMark 5: 1-20

It seems the disciples just can’t catch a break when it comes to traveling with Jesus. Following a chaotic night sailing through a violent storm, they finally reach their destination only to be confronted by a man possessed by demons. This man lived in the cemetery because he was not welcome in his town. The strength of his demons was such that he could not be restrained, so he was left to live alone running among the graves. Alone that is, until he encountered Jesus.

We can’t forget that Jesus and the twelve had crossed over into Gentile territory. They were the strangers; they were not among those who even followed their laws. It is early in Jesus’ ministry, so it is probable that no one in this land had heard about him yet. But look closely; the demon recognized him, knew his power and fell at his feet. Such is the power of God’s mercy in a world turned in on itself. Jesus has the power to free people from the grips of their demons.

In our world today, few actually believe in the demon possessed. Seldom do we hear accounts of individuals being harassed and tormented by demonic powers that have seized control of their lives. In actuality, this could not be farther from the truth. The powers of evil manifest themselves in so many ways. Satan’s demonic helpers are more than capable of taking control of someone’s and throwing it and their family’s life in the same chaotic state as the seas the twelve crossed in order to get to the land of the Gerasenes. Fear, anxiety and panic are all a part of such a life. Jesus, however, has the power to rid people of such demons.

As we read out text, notice how the demons recognize the power of Christ. “What have you to do with me Jesus, Son of the most high God?” The power of Christ is such that as we call upon his name we are strengthened to face the demons in our lives because we know we do not face the alone. Jesus is with us and he shows us in this text how to gain power over the powers that lead us astray. Call your demon by name.

The first step of expelling that which leads you away from God is to name the demon. Alcoholism, drug addiction, and abuse are all examples, but they are far from the only ones. Identifying that which is exercising power over you is the first step to gaining control. Once the demon is identified, call upon Christ, fall at his feet asking for his mercy and grace. Surround yourself with the people of God whose faith and strength will help carry you through. Most of all, do not feel as if you have been abandoned. Just as the demons in the world are many, so too are the people of God.

The newly cured man hoped he could go with Jesus back to the other side of the lake. Jesus, however, had other plans for him. “Go home…tell your friends how much the Lord has done for you.” The gift of God’s grace is too good to keep to one’s self’ it must be shared. As we tell others, of course some will doubt, but the proof is there before them. Others will see the difference God’s grace makes; they will also believe. Be thankful for all that God has done and continues to do. Go in joy and peace and proclaim the goodness of God, for Christ is with you.

Jesus Calms the Storm

Jesus cals stormMark 4: 35-41

In ancient times there was a common fear of the sea. Those who made their living on the waters were especially fearful of the stormy seas at night. Dark water represented the unknown. Dark stormy waters meant chaos. When Jesus had the disciples set out on the Sea of Galilee at night, he had them do something out of the ordinary; set out on the sea at night in order to cross the deep dark water to the other side.

In the midst of their journey, a violent storm blew up. Suddenly, the disciples found themselves in a very bad situation, sailing upon a dark stormy sea surrounded by chaos. It is little wonder they became terrified. Worse yet, as the storm was raging and the waves beat against their small boat, Jesus was asleep in the stern. Certainly, if we found ourselves there in the boat with the twelve our reaction might be the same as theirs. “How can you sleep? Don’t you care that we are about to die?” Imagine saying something to that effect to Jesus, “don’t you care?” But if you think about it, in so many words or less we have all asked this question of God at some point in our life.

We all have our own storms; we all experience our own version of chaos. When things seem uncertain because of sickness, job loss, divorce or the death of a loved one, everything is different. Suddenly we become fearful of the unknown. Chaos raises its ugly head. Our earthly journey is often interrupted by sudden squalls welling up from out of the darkness. It isn’t long before we encounter the wind and waves.

Sudden life changes brought about by trouble and fear are real storms in the lives of real people. Each one brings with it a measure of uncertainty, anxiety and fear. When things are well, the waters of our lives are just as beautiful as the waters of the oceans, just as inviting as the waters of cool mountain streams. Yet they remain as deep and dark as the broken world within which we live. Sometimes, we get lost in the chaos. Sometimes we are so agitated we begin to question God and his motives. Why me God? Why now? Don’t you care? We all face such storms. We all experience chaos in our lives. Even in our darkest hours, we dare call out to God wondering if he is indeed listening. It is in these instances we must rely on our faith, looking to Christ Jesus and realizing he is God.

Jesus is the author of all life. He is the one who is, was and will be. Jesus is the Messiah who saves God’s people from sin, the one who takes his followers into his loving embrace and promises eternal life to all who believe. Yes, when overcome by fear, we may experience times of doubt. We may wonder if Jesus really cares about our life and whether we live or die. Yet, forever and always Jesus is the one who has power to face the wind and waves of our struggle and say “Peace, be still; know that I am God.”

Kingdom Farming

Parable of the sower and seedMark 4_26-34

The fourth chapter of Mark’s gospel could be described as The Lord’s Guide to Kingdom Farming. Jesus’ teaches with parables involving fertile soil, sunshine, the sower and of course seeds. In the first of the farmer parables, the sower willfully scatters seed in all types of soil. Some of the seed grows, some struggles against other unwanted plants and there is a portion that seems to have little chance at all. Yet the sower is always generous with the seed of God’s Word.

In the text for today, there is little doubt that the farmer takes no credit for the sprouting of the seed. Instead, the farmer sleeps and rises with the day and night, simply having faith that growth will occur. The farmer in God’s kingdom understands powers beyond his own are at work causing the seed to sprout and grow. When the time is right he takes up the sickle and reaps the harvest. This cycle is but one way of recognizing how the Holy Spirit moves throughout the world as disciples of Jesus carry out the farmer’s duty of scattering seed.

As Christians scatter the Word among the mission fields, faithful disciples resemble the farmer in the parable. In faith, the Church sleeps and rises not knowing how it is that God causes the seed to sprout and grow in the hearts of those who receive the Word. We are often surprised at how quickly some seeds sprout. Suddenly, new members enter the community of believers and take their place at the table where God continues to feed and nourish their faith. Other seeds seem to take a long time to sprout and grow; it could be that those who initially sowed the seed have moved on to new fields well before growth becomes evident.

Jesus uses this parable to teach the Church that no matter the time or place, ours is the duty to be generous in the planting of the seed of God’s Word. Our mission is to be kingdom farmers and plant seed. God causes growth; the measure of our success is in the planting. As an illustration, the second parable offered today teaches us that God causes the seed planted by God’s people to grow far beyond what we are able to comprehend.

Jesus asks, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With such an illustration, we ought to recognize that it isn’t the size of the congregation or the number in a group that is important. It is the faith in which we sow our seed which is essential to kingdom farming.

Often, in the church that is sleeping and rising with the night and the day, small groups of believers gather to pray. Eventually, they recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit and begin to put faith into action. Soon new ideas sprout and ministries for the sake of others emerge. The mustard seed is the smallest, yet it miraculously grows and become the largest of shrubs. Likewise, we never know which of our small ideas will grow into vibrant ministries to feed and shelter those within the kingdom who have need. Again as Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Let Your Light Shine

parable of the lampMark 4: 21-25

At the onset of my seminary instruction, I wasn’t accustomed to leading musical portions of liturgy during worship. I’ve never been a musician and to this day I do not read music or play any sort of instrument. Still, I dearly love leading my congregation through the liturgy of our worship, but back in the beginning such was not the case.

The first time I was scheduled to intone the liturgy, my supervising pastor suggested that I run through everything a few times with our music director. Following a few vocal warm ups, the organist played the psalm tone on his piano as I sang rather quietly through the six verses of Psalm 1. After he helped build my confidence, I rather robustly sang out the entire Kyrie and Hymn of Praise in the solitude of his office. After tackling the psalm one more time, the pastor bolted into the room and asked if I would please turn off my wireless microphone. Little did I know that, for about fifteen minutes I had been serenading the group gathered for prayer in the church nave.

As I look back on this event, I realize that had I known the microphone was switched on I would not have made such a public display. Rather, I would have quickly switched it off and continued sheepish with my practice. Instead, I was able to share the good news of God’s saving grace boldly. Even if my voice is not on par with those of qualified musicians and vocalists, there could be no denying the truth of God’s promises kept through his Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus asks his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?” Certainly not! God blesses the Church with the most precious treasure there is, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each baptized child of God is therefore called to give witness to the wonders of God’s mercy and grace by sharing this gift with the world. With the baptismal rite of the Lutheran Church, we exhort the newly baptized to “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Lutheran Book of Worship)

In a world fallen into sin and broken beyond human repair, the only hope for salvation comes through Christ and believing that through him, God indeed keeps his promises. Jesus of Nazareth is light and life for the world. Baptized into his death and resurrection, the light of Christ dwells within God’s people. Shine your light so that through the darkness of the world, all may finally see the glory of the Father and enter the gates of our eternal home.